Events over the last few days have made me reflect…well, actually, have made me feel superior. It occurs to me that we rarely enjoy anything better than occupying the moral high ground. I don’t think that this is an individual character flaw, but something hardwired into humans. We like being right, but we like it even more when someone else is wrong. Might there, I wondered, be perfectly good evolutionary reasons for this? Might it be that we reinforce behaviour that keeps the species alive by feelings of smug self-righteousness and ostracism of the deviants? Maybe. Maybe not… Continue reading
For those who are beginning to worry about just what sort of ship I run, the title is a football chant, not how I go about giving feedback to teachers. And this is what I thought I’d write about today – how to give feedback…more specifically, how to give negative feedback…constructive feedback.
Following the last post about observations, there was an interesting exchange of opinions both here and on Twitter. The comments here seem to be centred around whether or not observations serve any real purpose (and the evidence seems to suggest that they don’t serve very much). The debate on Twitter was more about my apparent hardline stance on not sugar-coating the pill.
In no small measure down to my own shortcomings as a writer, I had left people aghast. They thought I was “angry” and “need[ed] to chill.” If I was like this, I was warned, I “would end up getting hated [by teachers]”. I was advocating a position where “feelings come second.” I should be careful not to become the worst kind of back seat driver…reminding me of my grandmother who used to sit behind me and helpfully point in the direction I needed to be going…
Let us move on…
In the recent training event, there was a role-play where one person was the “awkward” teacher and the other was the manager, giving feedback after an observation. In our group, I was the manager and my colleague was a teacher who just didn’t see the point in it all. Isn’t the main thing that my students are all happy, she asked. Isn’t the rest of it all just bureaucracy? The question we should never lose sight of is, indeed, What’s the point of it all? Anyone who tells you that they know the answer is either wrong or lying back on their deathbed, about to croak.
What is the point of it all? There’s too much life in the Secret DoS for me to be able to give you the answer. But I’ll tell you one thing now (for free): whatever you think is the point of it all most definitely is not the point of it all. Damn! I appear to have written myself into a corner. Humour me if I write on by considering a few of the more commonplace views.
The other day, I attended a training/development session about observations. For most of the time, I had to swallow my bile as the usual hackneyed dross was piped out. How should we give feedback? Supportively! Always focus on the good! Point out areas “for development” and the recalcitrant teacher will see the light. “In every lesson I observe, I learn something myself!” WHAT THE ACTUAL FLUX?! C’MON, SHEEPLE! To paraphrase (somewhat criminally) R.E.M., Everybody sucks, sometimes. In the style of Rafa Benitez, here we go: Continue reading
This, as I believe I have said before, is a tired old saw where I work. If Senior Management want Middle Management to excel in any given area and if a measure of what that area might be can be deduced from the training that is provided, even Doctor Watson would see that the area of Dealing with Difficult People is the area du jour.
As I sit in these training sessions, I more often than not end up secretly thinking, “What a big pile of hairy bollocks this is.” Continue reading
Something that has fascinated me fairly fixedly over the last couple of years is just how inefficient and ineffective our minds are. It all began with me trying to get a grip on what was going on at work. People seemed to be behaving really strangely – I was behaving perfectly coherently and rationally, I thought. I have listed elsewhere the books that I started reading, so won’t do so again. But this morning I had the thought of beginning a simple series that might explore some of the known cognitive biases and how they relate to this thing of ours. Today, for no other reason than it tops the list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia, I present you with the ambiguity effect.
I have spent this term trying to establish an approach to language learning that will allow students to feel that they have some control over their progress. Learning a language, it seems to me, is easiest when you know Sweet Fanny Adams. At this point in your career, everything is new and not a day goes by (should go by) when you don’t learn something that you didn’t know before. By the time you get past these halcyon days, it all becomes a bit of a drudge and you begin to lose interest. Or worse, you come to my office and moan about how you’re not learning anything and placing the blame for your ineffectiveness on your poor, long-suffering teacher. When I was learning my L2, I had one of the worst language teachers I have ever met. She would begin to go through the class with the question, How are you? starting in the top left hand corner and working her way methodically to the bottom right hand corner. Did I feel that she hampered my learning? No. How could she? It was my learning…it just meant that I didn’t learn much from her teaching…which is not the same as saying that I didn’t learn much from her…
Yikes! How I struggle with teaching English these days. I have no more clue how to teach listening than I do how to teach reading. I have next to no idea how to teach speaking and writing is the only rock upon which I believe I can build my church. Well, that’s not strictly true. I do believe that I know how to teach. It’s just that I don’t know how to teach English. Mmm. Perhaps a public forum like the internet is not the most appropriate place for such confessions. Let’s just say that today I am writing on behalf of a friend…
We are soon to have a training day. They are rarer than a word of wisdom in a textbook; more precious than a horde of IWB software; more costly than an audio CD component which is essential in order to do a listening in a student’s coursebook. And yet those who rule have in their wisdom decreed that part of the day is to be taken up listening to somebody from Prevent detailing to us how we can spot students being radicalised and thus safeguard them.
Safeguard is a nice verb, isn’t it? Radicalised is a nasty old adjective, isn’t it? What a wonderful world we live in where teachers try their utmost to safeguard their charges from insidious radicalisation! Thank the lord for those politicians who had the foresight to set up the organisation Prevent. David Cameron, I am talking to you, you lovable rogue.
Ladies, gentlemen and all others
I write to take my leave of you. I have no more to say. It has been a thrilling few years and I have found the writing and the exchanges cathartic in the extreme.
I have discovered ancient philosophy and am drawn to the conclusion that none of the rest really matters very much. I have an itch to blog about the application of ancient wisdom to my contemporary life. To that end, I have opened a new blog and you will be more than welcome should you ever wish to stop by there. I warn you now, I would be most surprised should ELT ever make an appearance. The new blog is called Chimp Jim and Me and can be found at chimpjim.wordpress.com. It is empty for now, but won’t be for long.
You have all been very kind to me and this has always been much appreciated. May your lives be full of life and your deaths be quick and timely.